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An interesting possibility - that taking supplements of  a type of vitamin E known as gamma tocopherol may reduce the inflammation of the airways common in asthma patients – eosinophilic inflammation.

Note that these findings were from a preliminary study of 15 people with mild asthma, done by researchers at the Univ. of North Carolina. Now larger and longer studies need to be done, especially to make sure that side-effects and an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke won't occur with gamma tocopherol, as it does for the other form of vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) commonly found in supplements. From Medical Xpress:

Can asthma be controlled with a vitamin supplement?

The shortness of breath experienced by the nearly 26 million Americans who suffer from asthma is usually the result of inflammation of the airways. People with asthma typically use albuterol for acute attacks and inhaled steroids to limit chronic inflammation. Both medications come with side effects. But what if it was possible to keep asthma under control by changing one's diet or taking a vitamin supplement? It may happen sooner than you think.

Preliminary research results from the UNC School of Medicine indicate that a type of vitamin E known as gamma tocopherol may reduce eosinophilic inflammation – a kind of airway inflammation common in asthma patients. The results were published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

"We started looking into vitamin E because epidemiologic data suggested that people with high amounts of vitamin E in their diet were less prone to asthma and allergic disease," said Michelle Hernandez, MD, professor of pediatrics and senior author of the study.  There are several different isoforms of vitamin E. The type commonly found in vitamin supplements – alpha tocopherol – has been studied previously, but the results suggested that alpha tocopherol was not particularly effective. Even worse, the alpha isoform seemed to be associated with an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke.

So UNC researchers took a different tack and asked whether the kind of vitamin E being used might have an effect on the outcome. They began looking more closely at gamma tocopherol, the type of vitamin E commonly found in a diet rich in nuts and nut oil. .... "While the alpha isoform does have antioxidant activities, gamma tocopherol has both an antioxidant and a very unique anti-inflammatory action as well," she said "That anti-inflammatory effect is what we think made the difference in this study."

Participants in the study were randomized into two groups that received either gamma tocopherol supplement or a placebo for two weeks. At the end of that period, they were asked to cough up sputum..... After a three week "washout period" where they took nothing, subjects were placed in the other group: if they took the supplement for the first two weeks, they took a placebo for the second period.

"The advantage of a cross-over design like this is that we are able to compare the subjects to themselves," said Burbank. "And what we found is that when people were taking the vitamin E supplement, they had less eosinophilic inflammation." In addition to decreased inflammation, those who were taking vitamin E were also found to have lower levels of proteins called mucins, which affect the stickiness of mucus. Mucins are often elevated in asthmatics.

Another popular view bites the dust.From the NY Times:

Why Antioxidants Don’t Belong in Your Workout

Antioxidant vitamins are enormously popular with people who exercise. The supplements are thought to alleviate muscle damage and amplify the effects of exercise. But recent studies have raised questions about whether antioxidants might be counterproductive for runners and other endurance athletes. And now a cautionary new experiment adds to those doubts by finding that antioxidants may also reduce the benefits of weight training.

 Both aerobic exercise and strength training lead to the production of free radicals, molecules that in concentrated amounts can cause tissue damage. Antioxidants sop up and neutralize free radicals. So, the thinking goes, taking antioxidant should lessen some of the damage and soreness after exercise and allow people to train harder.But recent experiments with endurance athletes have found that consuming large doses of vitamins C and E actually results in a slightly smaller training response. 

So for the new study, which was published online this month in The Journal of Physiology, scientists at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo and other institutions, some of whom previously had studied aerobic exercise and antioxidants, set out to repeat those experiments in a weight room.

They began by recruiting 32 men and women who had at least some experience with weight training. They measured the volunteers’ muscular size and strength.Then they randomly divided them into two groups. Half were asked to start taking two antioxidant vitamin pills each day, one before and one after exercising. The total daily dosage amounted to 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C and 235 milligrams of Vitamin E, which “is high but not higher than athletes commonly use,” ...The other group did not take any supplements.

All of the volunteers then began the same resistance-training regimen, consisting of four fairly rigorous training sessions each week. As the exercises grew easy, weights were increased, with the aim of pumping up the size and strength of the volunteers’ muscles.The program lasted 10 weeks. 

In general, people’s muscles had increased in size to the same extent, proportionally. The group that had taken the vitamins now had larger muscles. So did the group that had not. But there were subtle but significant differences in their strength gains. Over all, the volunteers who had taken the antioxidants had not added as much strength as the control group. Their muscles were punier, although they had grown in size.

The differences continued beneath the skin, where, as the muscle biopsies showed, the volunteers taking the vitamins had reduced levels of substances known to initiate protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is necessary to repair and strengthen muscles after weight training. So the volunteers taking the vitamins were getting less overall response from their muscles, even though they were following the same exercise program.

Exactly how antioxidant pills change muscles’ reactions to weight training is still unknown. But Dr. Goran and his colleagues speculate that, by reducing the number of free radicals after exercise, the vitamins short-circuit vital physiological processes. In this scenario, free radicals are not harmful molecules but essential messengers that inform cells to start pumping out proteins and other substances needed to improve strength and fitness. Without enough free radicals, you get less overall response to exercise.

The upshot is that whether you lift weights or jog, Dr. Goran would advise “against the use of high-dosages of concentrated antioxidant supplements.”

An assortment of vitamin and health articles from the past year. (Note: Some other major Vitamin D study results were posted earlier this year, as well as today - search Vitamin D). Whether one should take vitamins is still being debated, with the most support being for supplementation with Vitamin D (specifically D3).The first summary is from pubmed.gov:

Taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorptioncally D3) and results in higher serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Many patients treated for vitamin D deficiency fail to achieve an adequate serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] despite high doses of ergo- or cholecalciferol. The objective of this study was to determine whether administration of vitamin D supplement with the largest meal of the day would improve absorption and increase serum levels of 25(OH)D.... it is concluded that taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorption and results in about a 50% increase in serum levels of 25(OH)D levels achieved. Similar increases were observed in a wide range of vitamin D doses taken for a variety of medical conditions.

 The following are all from Science Daily:

Long-term daily multivitamin supplement use decreases cataract risk in men, study finds

Long-term daily multivitamin supplement use may lower cataract risk in men, according to a study of nearly 15,000 male physicians. Half took a common daily multivitamin, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene supplements. The other half took a placebo. The researchers followed the participants to identify how many participants in each group developed new cases of two common eye diseases: cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Results showed a 9 percent decrease in risk for those that took the supplements.

Taking B vitamins won't prevent Alzheimer's disease, researchers conclude

Taking B vitamins doesn't slow mental decline as we age, nor is it likely to prevent Alzheimer's disease, conclude researchers who have assembled all the best clinical trial data involving 22,000 people to offer a final answer on this debate. When looking at measures of global cognitive function -- or scores for specific mental processes such as memory, speed or executive function -- there was no difference between those on B vitamins and those receiving placebo to a high degree of accuracy.

Children who drink non-cow's milk are twice as likely to have low vitamin D

Children who drink non-cow's milk such as rice, almond, soy or goat's milk, have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who drink cow's milk, according to a new study. In North America, every 100 millilitres of cow's milk is required to be fortified with 40 units of vitamin D. Adding vitamin D to non-cow's milk, however, is voluntary.

Vitamin E intake critical during 'the first 1,000 days'

Amid conflicting reports about the need for vitamin E and how much is enough, a new analysis published today suggests that adequate levels of this essential micronutrient are especially critical for the very young, the elderly, and women who are or may become pregnant... "It's important all of your life, but the most compelling evidence about vitamin E is about a 1000-day window that begins at conception," Traber said. "Vitamin E is critical to neurologic and brain development that can only happen during that period. It's not something you can make up for later." Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin E -- nuts, seeds, spinach, wheat germ and sunflower oil -- don't generally make the highlight list of an average American diet. 

Vitamin D deficiency linked to higher risk of cardiovascular, cancer death

Analysis of pooled data showed a strong association between low vitamin D levels and risk of death in general death from cardiovascular diseases, death in from cancer, at least in older people with a history of cancer. "Going into our study, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on risk of death was not clear," said the lead investigator. "Our analysis confirms the protective nature of this substance especially in elderly patients."

High-dose vitamin D for ICU patients who are vitamin D deficient does not improve outcomes

Administration of high-dose vitamin D3 compared with placebo did not reduce hospital length of stay, intensive care unit length of stay, hospital mortality, or the risk of death at 6 months among patients with vitamin D deficiency who were critically ill, according to a study.